Let's get to it:
CAREY JACKSON FROM LONGVIEW, TX:
Why do the Steelers wait so long to play their top rookies when the team is struggling at their position?
ANSWER: Your mistake comes in assuming the Artie Burns you're seeing on the field now would be the same Artie Burns you would've seen on Sept. 12 for the regular season opener, and that just isn't true. Having the raw physical skills to be an NFL cornerback – just to use Burns as an example – must be complemented by an understanding of what NFL offenses are trying to do and how your own defense is designed to deal with those things. Until that understanding catches up to the physical skill-set, a guy is more of a liability for a unit than he would be an asset.
MATT THOMAS FROM CLEVELAND, OH:
In regards to the free kick after a safety, does the kicking team have to punt or is it their choice of kicks?
ANSWER: A free kick after a safety can either be a punt or a kickoff. Teams typically opt for the punt because of the hang-time possibilities.
JOHN GARNETT FROM STAFFORD, UK:
Can you explain why the passing yardage in the team statistics is sometimes different from the total of the players' stats? For the game against the Giants, the team statistics showed 272 yards passing, and Ben Roethlisberger was recorded as throwing for 289.
ANSWER: The difference can be found in the sack yardage, because the number listed in the team statistics is net yards passing. In the game against the Giants, Ben Roethlisberger was sacked twice for a loss of 17 yards, and so while he passed for 289 yards, the Steelers net yards passing as a team was 272 because you have to subtract the sack yardage.**
KEVIN HEARD FROM CHESAPEAKE, VA:
Near the end of Sunday's game, Odell Beckham, after a catch and run, appeared to me to take a knee before being touched by a Steelers player, and then he handed the ball to an official to start the next play. What gives?
ANSWER: In all situations, a player who has the football is permitted to "give himself up," which is what Odell Beckham Jr. did in the situation you described. When that happens, when a player "gives himself up," the closest official will blow the play dead and then the process can start for putting the ball into play for the next snap. The reason for Beckham doing what he did was because in that situation – the Giants were losing by more than one score with the clock running out – it was more important for the Giants to be able to line up and get off another play than it would be for him to fight for a few more yards while the clock continued to run.
GUSTAV GUSTAVSSON FROM ZURICH, SWITZERLAND:
Watched my first game at Heinz Field last Sunday, and I was not disappointed. Steelers Nation is as amazing as I imagined. I am especially blown away by the high level of play of William Gay that he still brings to the field this season. I haven't heard a lot of buzz regarding his case for the Hall of Fame. Do you think he belongs in the Hall of Fame? And how would you estimate his chances of getting in? Keep your Ask and Answered feature going. It's my favourite read on Steelers.com.
ANSWER: The whole "deserving of the Hall of Fame" question is a tricky one for me, because I don't have a vote, and as a team employee I never will. For that reason, my opinion of whether James Harrison belongs in the Hall of Fame is irrelevant. In trying to predict whether Harrison will get elected, I will cite Kevin Greene's sack statistics. Greene finished his NFL career with 160 sacks, and he still had to wait more than a decade after he was eligible to get elected. Including his time with the Bengals, Harrison has 81.5 sacks, which is just a little more than half of Greene's total. I am confident that James Harrison will go down as one of the great players in Steelers history. Beyond that, I have some doubt about whether Harrison is an electable candidate for enshrinement in Canton.**
ANGUS DUNCAN FROM SHETLAND, SCOTLAND:
How much would be the minimum pay that the replacement kicker, Randy Bullock, made for playing one game? With so many kicking mistakes/poor performances this year around the league it will be interesting to see what happens to him if/when he is released, assuming Chris Boswell is healthy again soon.
ANSWER: Randy Bullock is considered a third-year player for the purposes of determining his salary, and the minimum for that amount of service is $675,000 for the season. Since salaries are paid in 17 equal installments, Bullock would have been paid $39,705.88 for the game against the Giants. Since he was still on the Steelers roster through the Wednesday of the week leading up to the Bills game, he will be paid another $39,705.88 for that game, whether he kicks or not or whether he's even still on the roster on Sunday or not.
ERIC ASH FROM BEAVER FALLS, PA:
It seems to me that the tiny percentage of kickoffs that do get returned, very few are brought out to the 25-yard line. Given that, and also that returning a kick risks a fumble and injuries, will the NFL go to eliminating the kickoff altogether? That would be a shame, because it would get rid of the onside kick.
The Steelers prepare for the Week 14 matchup against the Buffalo Bills.
ANSWER: I believe what the NFL is trying to do is come up with a procedure where every time the ball is kicked deep it goes as a touchback, while also retaining the possibility of an onside kick at any point in a game. Whether this is that procedure, we'll have to let it play out over the course of a whole season.**
RICHARD NEWMAN FROM HYATTSVILLE, MD:
When a punter punts the ball, and it goes out of bounds, how does the official know where to place the ball as he's running up the sideline?
ANSWER: The referee – the zebra in the white hat – stands behind the punter on every punt, and that position allows him to have a good sight-line to see where the ball crosses the sideline as the kick heads out of bounds. The official on that sideline will move forward while looking at the referee, who ends up being the guy to spot the ball by signaling to the official where it crossed the sideline.
GERRY ZEIT FROM TORONTO, ONTARIO, CANADA:
My in-laws have Christmas dinner planned for 6 p.m. on Dec. 25. Any way you could arrange for them to postpone the dinner until 8 p.m. so that I can watch James Harrison put Joe Flacco on the grass at least twice and have Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown hook up for another three touchdown game?
ANSWER: My experience tells me that for you to have any hope of pulling this off, you're going to need your wife on your side. My advice there is to go straight to the bribery, and I have found jewelry – especially diamonds and even small ones – work extremely well in that situation. Good luck, and I hope your predictions for the events of that game come true.
DON LEWIS FROM MYRTLE BEACH SC:
Both Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell know better than to do what they did by way of celebrations. If I'm the coach, they sit out the next series. Your thoughts?
ANSWER: My thoughts are I'm glad you're not the coach. Very, very glad.